The state Bond Commission borrowed $5 million for construction of the new Torrington Courthouse, $200,000 for renovations to the Lutz Children’s Museum in Manchester, $150,000 for improvements to the Bethel Teen Center, and $5 million for farmland preservation.
These are just a handful of the $635 million in projects the state Bond Commission approved putting on the state credit card Friday. (For a full list click here.)
“With a six billion dollar budget deficit looming and the state supposedly near its bonding capacity, how is it almost $635 million in bonding on the agenda?” Republican Party Chairman Chris Healy, wondered out loud last weekend on his blog.
Following the first Bond Commission meeting in three months, Gov. M. Jodi Rell said she understands Healy’s frustration. “I think that we’re all frustrated right now,” Rell said.
“I think that we’re frustrated when we see that some of the tougher decisions have not been made and they’re dragging their feet waiting for the beginning of the next year to start to take some actions,” Rell said referring to the Nov. 24 special session when the legislature reduced the 2009 deficit by about $72 million.
Regarding bonding, “It is part of the process here and we need to continue to bond the dollars that are necessary,” she said.
“A number of these farms have been on the market for some time…if we don’t pay for it we may lose those farms,” Rell said regarding the $5 million allocation for farmland preservation. And if the state doesn’t act now on the option to purchase a building for the Torrington courthouse it may lose it, she said.
In his blog Healy predicted it’s going to be hard for Rell to “ask for sacrifices from unions, school districts, soup kitchens and cities and towns if we are going to rubber stamp money for farmland that isn’t on the market, clearing a vacant drive-in or giving money to a wealthy town so they can have a swimming pool.”
Rell’s administration pulled the plug in November on about $35 million in bonding for 150 supportive housing units. Click here to read about what housing advocates had to say about that.
However, while Rell was quick to point out that the Bond Commission met only six times this year, it met only five times in 2007, six times in 2006 and 2005, and nine times in 2004, according to the Office of Policy and Management.
As far as the budget goes Rell has often been quoted saying that “everything is on the table.” One reporter at the press conference following Friday’s Bond Commission meeting wanted to know if that everything included taxes.
“It would be my last resort frankly,” Rell said. “I’m also trying to avoid lay-offs.”